these will be the new lines

Travel

J. F. Alonso

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Night trains have always had poetry. Or mystery. Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie o Graham Greene they imagined crimes in those wagons that screeched on the rails of Europe between dusk and dawn. And thousands of travelers reserved a place with the promise of taking a trip and reaching a destination, but also in search of time to think, to read.

Until those trains disappeared, displaced, among other things, by the obsession to get there fast and by the proliferation of low-cost flights. When was the last time each of us traveled on a night train? Maybe in Madrid-Lisbon? In a Paris-Madrid?

However, the new debate on the ecological and economic sustainability of short-haul flights and many low-cost lines seems to have revived. the future of the train in general and that of ‘the nocturnal ones’ in particular.

The French company Midnight Trains spearheads this revival of night trains. In 2024 they promise to launch their first line from Paris, which will continue if all goes well with a network of more than 10 destinations with distances of 800 to 1,500 km. Porto, Madrid and Barcelona figure in their forecasts. And the same are several cities in northern Italy, some in Germany, Brussels …

Beyond the announcement becoming reality, other news confirms the trend. The French state railway company SNF has wanted to reactivate its sleeper trains for years and recently launched a night service that covers the more than a thousand kilometers that separate Paris and various towns on the Côte d’Azur, with compartments of four or six berths. Departure from Paris at 8:52 p.m. arrival in Nice, at 9.06.

There are other lines that will be inaugurated soon. The Czech Operator Region Jet and the new Dutch night train cooperative European Sleeper They will schedule a Prague-Brussels night train from April 2022, passing through Dresden, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels.

The railway companies of France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland announced at the end of 2020 a project to launch in the coming years four international night train lines that would unite 13 major European cities. The first two Nightjets would arrive in December 2021 – if the pandemic does not delay it – between Vienna and Munich, and between Zurich, Cologne and Amsterdam.

It should be remembered that in December 2016, Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s state railway, sold all its sleeping cars and declared them unprofitable. It ended in this way all City Night Line. But climate change and Covid-19 are changing the perspective of businessmen and travelers. Now some politicians have said that “night trains are an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative and allow public interest in the train” (Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, French Minister of Transport).

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